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Bomber Failed Twice Before

"This time, I hope I will be able to do it," homicide bomber Mohammed al-Ghoul wrote in a farewell note.

Al-Ghoul wrote he'd tried twice to stage attacks but failed. Tuesday, the graduate student blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus and killed 19 Israelis.

The Jerusalem bus targeted by al-Ghoul was filled with high school students and office workers. At least two students were among the dead.

Al-Ghoul fit the profile of the typical bomber — a devout Muslim, who is single, in his early 20s and affiliated for some time with an extremist Islamic group.

Al-Ghoul, who had just begun a master's program in Islamic studies at a nearby university, dated his letter Saturday and went to see relatives one last time.

Over the weekend, he visited his 80-year-old aunt and three sisters, bringing them sweets. One sister, Layla, said he seemed to be acting normally and relatives realized only later he must have been saying goodbye.

After the visits, Al-Ghoul, 22, left his tidy, relatively well-off home in the camp. Relatives said they assumed he was going to An Najah University in nearby Nablus to prepare for exams.

In his note, which was found Tuesday, al-Ghoul didn't explain why he'd failed in his previous two attempts to stage attacks. "How beautiful it is to make my bomb shrapnel kill the enemy. How beautiful it is to kill and to be killed — not to love death, but to struggle for life, to kill and be killed for the lives of the coming generation," al-Ghoul said.

Next to his name, he wrote, "Izzedine al Qassam" — the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al-Ghoul's attack was the 70th Palestinian homicide bombing in 21 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

Though al-Ghoul was typical of a homicide bomber, recently Palestinians from other segments of society have come forward as volunteers, including women, high school students and married men.

The push to carry out attacks became stronger after Israel's six-week military offensive in the West Bank in April and May, itself a reprisal for bombings.

In the offensive, troops entered Palestinian population centers, kept hundreds of thousands of Palestinians under curfew for up to several weeks and rounded up thousands of people, heightening the desire of many Palestinians to take revenge.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer acknowledged this week that the military offensive, while hampering the ability of militias to carry out attacks, was strengthening their motivation. Ben-Eliezer said that it was now easier to recruit homicide bombers than find explosives in the Palestinian areas.

Recent polls indicate that there is widespread support among Palestinians for attacks on Israelis. One poll cited an approval rating of 68 percent, and another of 54 percent — down slightly from results several months earlier.

At the Al-Ghoul home, relatives received condolences Tuesday.

His mother, Subhiya, sat sobbing with two of her daughters, holding pictures of her son and his diploma from An Najah. "My brother is a hero. I'm not sad," al-Ghoul's sister Samar said.

"He's a martyr," said his father, Haza. "We have only to ask our God to be merciful with him. ... Our sons want to die for our land, to get it back."